Cardiologist to pay $2M to settle kickback allegations

An interventional cardiologist in Victorville, California, has agreed to pay $2 million to settle allegations that he participated in a complex kickback scheme.

Siva Arunasalam, MD, allegedly sold his practice, High Desert Heart Vascular Institute, to Prime Healthcare Services (PHS) for an amount of money that far exceeded fair market value. In return, PHS allegedly wanted Arunasalam to refer patients to Desert Valley Hospital.

Arunasalam negotiated the price with PHS CEO Prem Reddy, MD, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Reddy and PHS agreed to pay a combined $35.5 million as a part of the settlement.

“Offering illegal financial incentives to physicians in return for patient referrals undermines the integrity of our health care system by denying patients the independent and objective judgment of their health care professionals,” Brian M. Boynton, acting assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said in a prepared statement announcing the news. “Today’s settlement demonstrates the department’s commitment to protect federal health care programs against such violations, as well as other efforts to defraud these important programs.”

“Doctors have a sworn duty to do no harm and to put their patients’ interests first,” added Tracy L. Wilkison, acting U.S. attorney for the Central District of California. “Kickbacks designed to increase the number of patient referrals corrupt the doctor-patient relationship and needlessly waste this nation’s health care resources.”

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